Thursday, February 28, 2008


She came into my life as a stray that had found her way to the porch of a friend who could not take in another cat. My friend knew I had been looking for a companion for Maude, who seemed to need a lot more affection than one person could provide. So off I went to see this little gray kitty with no tail. And, of course, I had to take her home.

She spent her first week here in the front bedroom. Maude seemed totally oblivious to her, until one evening when she heard a noise from the other side of the door, sniffed a bit under it and turned to me with a look on her face that said "Hey! Did you know there's another cat here?" And then there was a week of an old screen door that I used to separate them so they could see each other safely.

After that I removed the screen door and the fun began. Poor Maude tried so hard to be a gracious hostess, ignoring the hissing and occasional bat of the paw for a few weeks, until she finally had enough and batted back. That seemed to equalize the relationship to the point where they both became wusses. They would pass each other in the hall, hugging the wall. They would sleep on the bed with me but each had her own corner. And since the bedroom was Maude's territory, Olive didn't spend a lot of time here, preferring to use the cat door to commune with nature on the screened-in back porch.

Olive took her time warming up to me, too. We finally bonded in the mornings when I would sit on the ledge of the bathtub to fix my hair. She would jump into my lap and let me pet her, and eventually she understood that when I put the curling iron down I would be standing up and the lap would disappear.

When Maude died last fall, Olive suddenly became Queen of the Bedroom. She claimed the bed as her own, never went out on the back porch and slept on the pillow next to my head. When I came home at night she wouldn't come greet me, preferring instead to remain on the bed and only move from there when she heard the food hit the bowl. She became rather affectionate and would nuzzle my chin every night and let me rub her head -- but only for as long as SHE wanted.

Tuesday I came home and instead of her usual place on the bed I found her hiding under the sideboard in the living room. She didn't come out when I called to her or filled her bowl. Very odd. And when I brought the food to her, she wouldn't eat. Something was obviously wrong. On Wednesday at lunchtime I brought her chicken soup from Whole Foods. She still wouldn't eat. I called the vet and was told to bring her in that afternoon.

Now, Olive was never a very good patient at the vet. In fact, it was noted in her file that she was "feisty" But on Wednesday she let them weigh her and poke her and listen to her heart, which is when the vet detected a heart murmur. A few blood tests and an xray later and we had a finding of an enlarged heart. The vet had warned me when she heard the murmur that heart disease in cats is very scary.

To determine what was causing the cardiomegaly would require an ultrasound, EKG and some other tests. And for that she would have to be sedated and the vet didn't think she would survive that. And even if we did find out what the ultimate cause was and what meds to treat it with, the prognosis was still not good. I've since learned that six months was about average. It would require daily medication and probably more frequent vet visits and testing, and Olive wasn't going to stand for that.

So I made the decision that I had to make. She came home with me last night and spent the evening on her blanket next to me on the bed. This morning we went to the vet for the last time. I've always believed that if at all possible, you owe it to your animals to be with them in their last moments. So I petted her told her how much I loved her and what a great cat she'd been.

And then she was gone.

She will be cremated (along with her blanket) and I will scatter her ashes over Maude's grave under the camellia bush. They will be closer in death than they ever were in life.

So, for the first time in 23 years I am catless. I always had a spare cat, but I thought I had a little more time ahead with Olive. But at the vet's office there's an older male in a cage with a sign on it that says "I Need A Home." His owner is moving somewhere that won't allow her to have a cat. He was very vocal this morning as I paid my bill. I told him "Thank you for your sympathy. Give me a week, okay?"

We all know where this is leading, don't we?

But for now, I am missing my Olive. She was feisty and sweet and lived life on her own terms.

Go in peace, my kitty.